The Keepmoat Stadium was the setting for the first People’s Powerhouse event ,which aims to be the start of a movement for change in the Northern Powerhouse debate and plans, putting people and communities front and centre and encouraging collaboration, sharing and ingenuity across the north.
More than 250 delegates attended the July 12 event for a day of passionate debate and learning-based workshops on issues such as social inclusion, inclusive growth, housing, city region devolution and how culture can improve the lives of the people in the north.
The event was over-subscribed, with speakers and panellists including Greater Manchester mayor Andy Burnham, Turning Point chief executive Lord Victor Adebowale, Big Life Group and Big Issue North chief executive Fay Selvan, PWC partner Karen Finlayson and Social Enterprise UK chief executive Peter Holbrook.
The closing address was by Dame Louise Casey, who is leaving her role as director general of the Department for Communities and Local Government and gave moving closing reflections on her 18 year career as a civil servant.
One of the highlights of the day was the youth panel. Charlie Lisle from Talent Match Greater Manchester spoke from the heart about her ambitions and her struggle to achieve what other people kept saying was beyond her.
Charlie said: “One of the big things I’ll be taking away is the power of words. I spoke for five minutes in the morning and I’ve had people stopping me all day. I didn’t expect to have so much impact. It’s been an amazing day but now I want to know what’s going to happen differently and how we will see people for what they’re capable of.”
Turning Point’s Lord Victor Adebowale said: “I’m here as a Yorkshire man and as the chief executive of a social enterprise which works with people at the sharp end of the inverse care law, who need the help the most and get the least.
“I want us to achieve and articulate a real inclusive vision for the North and introduce new collaborative structures that see local authorities working with the private sector, social enterprises and charities. I also want us to see us working in partnership with people – not doing things to or for people. I think we can send a real economic signal that the north of England does not survive on the whim of the South but that we are a driver of the economy.”
Andy Burnham outlined what he said were the four cornerstones of any successful People’s Powerhouse. He said these were 1) equal gender representation at all levels of local government; making sure that the Powerhouse is open to all people, 2) bringing in voices that aren’t being heard at the moment; 3) making sure where people are brought in that it’s not as a token gesture but they are given something meaningful to do; and 4) focusing on the “first word (people) not the second”.
He outlined that this might mean property developers need to start thinking about people and communities and building them into their plans in a more meaningful way than has perhaps been the case up to now.
The People’s Powerhouse movement was the brainchild of Tracy Fishwick, managing director of Transform Lives based in Liverpool and Doncaster Council chief executive Jo Miller who noticed a lack of female representation in the speakers for the Northern Powerhouse Conference. This evolved into bigger discussions about who the Northern Powerhouse was for and what it was setting out to achieve and the People’s Powerhouse idea was born.
A new website, www.peoplespowerhouse.org.uk , was launched at the event. The website will offer opportunities for people and organisations across the North to collaborate and connect with one another across the North of England as a platform for creativity, idea sharing and innovation.
Closing the day’s event, Doncaster Council chief executive Jo Miller said: “This is not the end it is the start, our collaboration starts now. Let’s do it for the people because we can.”